Only Mum would throw a party for someone who hates people, so confident is she in the power of her tuna vol-au-vents and sparkling conversation about “the bloody gorgeous” deity that is David Cameron, to bring people together. Newsflash. Her attempts drove an even bigger wedge between Aunty L and the villagers.
Much to my Aunt’s irritation, Mum started off by getting her jif-soaked hands on the cottage. She scrubbed and soaked everything in sight including Ernie, Aunty L’s pet cockatoo, who she tired to brush using a toothbrush soaked in sunflower oil “to give him a nice party sheen like David Cameron”.
Ernie doesn’t do “party sheen” and pecked Mum’s wrists to shreds before slipping off his perch into a bowl of sesame seeds. Mum laughed it off by saying “how quaint, he looks like he’s been tarred and feathered” and Aunty L looked like she might throw her sister in the kiln and turn her into much more useful cereal bowl.
As people started flooding through the door at exactly 1pm, Mum started hyperventilating. I thought it was just the amount of hairspray she’d used until I heard her muttering something about only expecting “max 15 including the vicar and his dogs”. She hadn’t been expecting all 100 villagers to the party because my Aunt has “absolutely no friends” and it all quickly turned into a high state of emergency because there weren’t enough tuna vol-au-vents to go round.
Aunty L was appalled by the number of people trudging through her house saying “they are just busy bodying about because no one has ever been invited into my cottage for tea and seasonal sponge cake. They all think I’m part of a terrorist network with a sideline in pottery.”
After we’d got through what food we had, and Disc 1 of The Ultimate Movie Music Collection (including the theme music from Last of The Mohicans. Mum thought it would be rousing. I think that’s a whole hour of listening I’m never going to get back) I was relieved to be pushed out of the cottage to buy as many Mr Kiplings as I could get my hands on. It meant I could call Suze and find out how the brainstorming was going. “Absolutely ace thanks Vick, Gabriella is having some great ideas like an ironic Posh and Becks remake with the thrones and everything! Totally ironic, mind.”
Relief was replaced by panic. That’s a rubbish idea for a wedding. I should be there with my flip chart and pens taking control of the situation, guiding proceedings away from yawn Posh and Becks towards Take That tribute bands, Lady GaGa and spit roast deer. So Suze may be a vegetarian who loves reggae but the point is that I’d be the one standing up and asserting my role as best friend.
I was drawn back to the party by the sound of a glass being chinked. Aunty L was about to make a speech. Mum went about maniacally smoothing her helmet head, obviously preparing herself to be thanked effusively for all the support she’d given her sister in the past few years. But instead she looked like she’d been slapped in the face with a wet haddock when my Aunty, pulling the straps of her dungarees like a policeman, said,
“Right you lot. I think it’s time you stopped fishing under my sink for semtex and buggered off. I have a date with my Potters Wheel and I need to repair the fence around my training camp out back.”
Quite an awkward silence followed. I was the only one who seemed to find it funny as people drained the dregs of their glasses and filed out saying things likely “wholly inappropriate” and “it’s a shield you know”.
Mum was terribly put out and once she’d cling-filmed all the unused Mr Kipling, she left in a whirlwind of “so bloody ungrateful.”
I stayed behind to help put things back to their usual state of mess. While toppling over a pile of magazines I confided in Aunty L about my anxieties about Suze and Gabriella.
She didn’t say anything other than “Just be yourself Vicky”
Easy for her to say. The last time I was “myself” I ended up exactly like her. A social pariah, an outsider. Like John Wayne. Or Easy Rider Or Swayze, Lowe or Estefez in The Outsiders.
No, I have to find a way to get through this thing without being my competitive self. I promise myself that much.